The High Cost of Deferred Maintenance

Every aspect of a facility requires a certain amount of ongoing maintenance. It’s easy to get sidetracked by fixing immediate needs, so systems that seem to be working fine are ignored—this is called ‘deferred maintenance’. But over time, little problems start adding up. You may not notice these systems until they fail. And by the time they do fail, it’s much costlier and complicated to fix.

Preventive maintenance helps prevent much larger issues from causing catastrophic failure. It also helps protect an organization’s budget. “Facilities stewardship isn’t just prudent because God has entrusted these facilities to us. It’s also the right thing to do,” said Tim Cool, founder of Smart Church Solutions.

Deferred maintenance isn’t just about small fixes. It can have a dramatic impact on big-ticket items, like HVAC, roofing, and paved surfaces. For example, an occasional roof leak is ignored for several years. But after a bad storm, it’s discovered that deferred maintenance led to rotten sheathing, roof joists, and wall framing. The small roof repair just turned into a major, and expensive, remodeling project.

Cool Solutions Group frequently performs inspections of ministry facilities. At the conclusion of every inspection, they provide the ministry with a facilities condition report, outlining maintenance items that need attention. “Most facilities condition reports show that churches underfund for general maintenance and understaff for maintenance,” said Cool.

Here’s a sobering example of the need to properly fund facilities maintenance. Smart Church Solutions recently performed a facilities assessment on a 40,000 square foot church. They found $1.9 million in deferred maintenance. If the church had budgeted correctly for maintenance and staffing over the last 20 years, they would have spent about $900,000. A $1 million difference!

Some of the biggest areas for deferred maintenance include HVAC, paving, and roofing. “These are big ticket items and the tendency is to let these items slide for too long,” explained Cool. Ministries try to limp along, increasing their energy costs, until the inevitable catastrophic failure happens.

Christian schools face the same issues as churches. Budgets are tight, and preventive maintenance is something that tends to slide. “Consider that the cost of handling a replacement at its point of total failure is generally 30 times the cost of handling it on its first failure,” said Cool. For example, failing to maintain windows can result in massive costs. Instead of spending two to three dollars per year to re-caulk windows, you may end up spending thousands to clean up mold and replace water-damaged drywall, framing, insulation, trim, and flooring.

If you want to save your budget and your building, don’t defer your maintenance, instead, budget appropriately and perform preventive maintenance.

Download the following Smart Church Solutions resources to take control of your facilities.

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Updated March 11, 2022 

The information provided in this article is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.